Underwater butterfly shot on an analogue camera 8 x 10 in. plate
Unique chromogenic print, mounted to polished aliminium box framed behind museum anti-reflect glass
The butterfly is widely significant in different cultures; symbolising love, regeneration, fortune, freedom, spirituality and death. The connection Greek Mythology draws between butterflies and the souls of those who have passed away is of particular interest to the artist Alexander James.
In 2010 Alexander James started to breed these remarkable butterflies and through this process, a strong dialogue became apparent. This delicate creature undergoes an epic transition - unquestioningly embracing both her body and changing environment - expending energy on a huge scale to make it happen. It is as if it thereby asks us to accept the changes in our lives as abidingly as it does.
Imagining the whole of one's life changing to such an extreme that one then unrecognizable at the end offers great hope to Alexander James. The original ’Swarm' series explored these themes through the introduction of water, believing that drawing on water's transient and destructive nature exposes the fragility of life and the temporary nature of our existence since it acts as both nurturer and destroyer; having the power to cleanse and reinvent or to drown and disappear.
Drawing upon his earlier 'Swarm' series, which explores this subject in a hyper-real and painterly aesthetic created through interacting with the water's mechanics to paint the subject in light. The present work acts as a reflection on life and mortality and how it is fleeting, beautiful and ultimately, tragic.
The present series, 'Transparency of a Dream', touches upon the reproducible capacity of photography - its force and its failing, was scrutinised. Provoked by the notion that a panting is intrinsically more valuable than a photograph, primarily because of its singular uniqueness. To counter this perception, the artist presents Transparencies of a Dream, comprising entirely of singular, unique photographic works, in an attempt to challenge the ideas concerning the spirit and economic valuation of artworks and to create an exciting tension between their individual present and relinquished, reproducible past.
Here, using a single 8 x 10 in. film plate, an original scene captured a parent butterfly specimen; these plates were then annotated and stored for several months until their descendent butterflies were born and matured, and were thus reshot over the top of the original film plates. The image thus conveys a dream-like sensation of descendants dancing with one another; something in nature that never occurs. Each work differs in their appearance with sheer fluttering delicacy; a spectral trace of the multiple moments in time past, capturing a sculptural tableau that has been created underwater with painstaking intricacy. Each piece is not only a unique physical entity but embodies an unrepeatable aesthetic effervescence; representing the singular event of artistic consummation performed through painterly, liquid mechanics. Original. These one-off works of art reverse the conventional parameters of the photography while simultaneously blurring the lines with sculpture, performance, and painting.
London, Distil Ennui Studio®
About Alexander James
British, b. 1967, London, United Kingdom, based in London, United Kingdom